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I like being outside if it's nice out. This includes mountain biking, trail running, sailing, climbing, skiing and much more. If you're going on a fun adventure, let me know!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Gin Peak

A daytrip to Gin Peak, with Krystil Chris Evan Greta Ben and Jen.

We parked at the biathlon range at Whistler Olympic Park. Same deal as last year, where you pay $10 per vehicle. The gate is open at 8:30am and closed at 4:30pm on weekends. If you want to start earlier or leave later, then you'll have to park at the Alexander Falls parking lot.

Based on a friend's description from two weekends ago, I knew the approach was going to be thin. There is barely enough snow to skin along the marked Hanging Lake trail to the top of the XC trails. From the large sign, I boot packed for about 15-20minutes through the forest before hitting more consistent snow. Thanks to the work that Scott N. has put in here, the trail is easy to follow, and there are even logs to cross snow-free creeks. With enough determination, you could skin from the sign, but you definitely can't ski down to it at this point in the season.

HS 30cm at 1100m, 160cm at the lake at 1400m, and 135cm on ridgetop at 1750m. More snow would be useful to cover up some bumps in the alpine, and another 50cm-1m in the forest, but otherwise great skiing in low-density snow. The same can't be said for the ski out, which was a mix of survival skiing, and bootpacking.

If you ski here, please remember to fill out the 21 Mile Creek Survey

More photos here on Flickr













Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Red Heather and Musical Bumps

Red Heather

Uncertain about the snow conditions,I headed up to Red Heather again, with Ben Tiff Adam and Tracy. It was pouring rain in North Vancouver, which barely changed to snow at the parking lot. There are lots of potholes on the road up, but otherwise snow and ice free. We carried skis for ten minutes, from the car park, up around the switchback and transitioned just below the Howe Sound viewpoint. There was just enough snow to skin on the road. Coverage on the road improved beyond the waterfall, but still thin in the forest.

Snow depths ranged from 95cm in the meadows, to 125cm below Round Mountain. Coverage is great up there now, and skiing should be good once we get some colder snowfall. We tried to ski a few runs on the north side. Turns were not necessarily today, and the key was to keep as much momentum forward through the heavy deep snow. Coverage in the trees on the south side is still thin, and not recommended. The winter route is now marked with orange poles to Elfin Lakes.

It stayed dry most of the day, until the second warm front passed through in the afternoon, bringing warm and wet precipitation. We left the warming hut at 3pm, and skied down the slow and sticky snow on the road. The last ten minutes to the car were wet. We hiked down in pouring rain to the now slushy parking lot.

November 22 on the left, and December 20 on the right.


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To celebrate the winter solstice, I joined Ben, Jen, Mark and Jen for some slackcountry skiing out to the Musical Bumps. I was torn between sailing or skiing today, but ultimately the fresh powder was too tempting. It was gongshow in Whistler village, with a ridiculous hour long wait to get up the gondola. It didn't matter anyways, since Harmony opening was delayed and we skied right into the lineup as it started loading.

The snow at ridgetop off Flute was wind effected, but quality improved significantly lower down on the northwest and northeast aspects down into Oboe Creek. Snow depths was around 140 to 160cm. Snow quality deteriorated below 1650m, with a thin breakable raincrust. The best skiing was between 1700m to 1900m. The weather wasn't the greatest for ski photography, with flat light and low contrast conditions for most of the day.


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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Brandywine Mountain

It was 10pm on Saturday night, and I was without a ski plan for Sunday. Never a good situation to be in. I was out at a friends party, and still had to pack my ski bag from the day before with my gloves and liners drying out. Luckily, I got in touch with Bram who was equally motivated to ski in marginal conditions (although photos below may suggest otherwise). After fifteen minutes of tossing around ideas, brainstorming of a place that didn't involve a lengthy hike, we settled on Brandywine Mountain.

It's still very thin below the alpine right now. A few more cold storms would help. The freezing levels look good into this coming weekend, 30-40cm of snow falling at 1000-1200m. Unfortunately there's a warm front approaching on Sunday. Hopefully the warm rain will be short lived. Getting high is key.

Just like the day before, we drove up to 1200m on the Brandywine FSR, parking just above the last hill. From here, we continued along the flat road, taking off our skis for nearly every open waterbar.

I knew it was going to be busy, and tracked out from the day before. I was still surprised when we reached the meadows, and the Brandywine Glacier. A wasteland of tracks from the eyes of a ski tourer. Far from a pristine alpine environment.

Snow depths went from 60cm in the meadows at 1400m, quickly increasing to 160cm at 1600m halfway up the meadows on a north facing slope, and almost 300cm on the Brandywine Glacier at 2000m. South facing slopes, on the climb up to the Brandywine glacier were sun-affected from two days of sunshine, while the north facing slopes held dry powder. The next storm will overly all these surfaces, windslabs, suncrusts and facets.

Snowmobile tracks went straight up to the col at 2000m with the Brandywine Glacier. It was interesting getting up this slope, breaking trail on breakable crust on the side of the tracks. I tried skinning on the tracks, but they had frozen over during the night and were icy. I have old skins on my rock skis which don't help with traction either.

It was baking hot, reminiscence of a spring day. There were a few snowmobilers who were about to descend just as I reached the col with a cool breeze, and were nice enough to wait for Bram and Rebecca to reach the top before dropping in.

Holy crap. That was my initial reaction when I saw the tracks on the Brandywine Glacier. The nice pocket on the glacier was completely high-marked out. Fortunately, the final windswept icy slopes to the summit were untouched, so we continued upwards.

The views from the summit were spectacular as always. The sun sits low in the sky at this time of the year. To the west, over Mount Fee and Mount Cayley, the skies looked like a slow sunset. Golden yellows and oranges contrasted against the cold blue snowy landscape. An approaching weak front brought bands of wispy clouds over the mountains. We sat on the rimed icy summit, enjoying some hot tea and chocolate cookies while watching the subtle colour changes in the sky with the setting sun. The day was short, with the winter solstice only a week away.

We skied windswept snow and pockets of powder off the summit. I spotted a line between some rocks below the summit. The entrance off the wind lip was icy. My skis chattered as I traversed the slope, and then I found some softer snow and made a turn. Looking back up, I couldn't see where my tracks entered the slope due to the hard snow. The slope below was better than expected, with nice chalky powder. It was certainly more aesthetic than retracing the line through the snowmobile tracked slope.

Bram and Rebecca took their own line lower down, and we re-grouped on the flat Brandywine Glacier. We were expecting the worst for the descent off the col in the frozen snowmobile tracks. But it was better than expected, with pockets of north facing powder preserved in the shade and cold temperatures.

Back at the meadows, a group of snowmobilers offered us a ride back to the car, citing the late hour. We politely declined, and made good progress back to the road. In fact, with the thin snow coverage and open creeks, we beat them down to the road. Something about a stuck sled in a creek. And then, they zoomed past us on the road and waved goodbye.

We plodded down the road, skiing the first half and walking once the road became more patchy and rock covered.

An excellent ski day.











Summit chocolate cookies and tea ontop of Brandywine Mountain

Bram ripping down from Brandywine Mountain




Tracked out on Brandywine


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Metal Dome

Alex, Bill, Rob, Dan and I did a quick ski trip up to Metal Dome via the Brandywine FSR. It's still early season on the Coast, but being snow-starved skiers, we were keen to see how the snowpack was shaping up. I had doubts on whether it was worth getting out of bed for, especially as I had to be back in the city for a dinner. I rather not rush a trip, but Alex convinced me to join him anyways. He had a point. Instead of making excuses not to go skiing (crappy approaches, no snow, too much sunshine), it should be the opposite.

Blackcomb Powder Cats operates out of here, and have cut a cat track from the end of the road through the forest to the alpine. This makes for easy access to the rolling sub-alpine terrain, especially when you can drive high in the early season, or in the spring. They are not operating yet, but the snowmobilers were out in full force on the Brandywine area, taking advantage of the December sunshine and powder.

The past week's pineapple express left behind puddles and torrential creeks on the North Shore mountains. Fortunately, the freezing levels were just low enough for the alpine to be covered in snow. With a 4WD vehicle, we drove to 1200m, and skinned straight from the car. Of course, there were some patchy sections of snow, and water bars that required the removal of skis to cross.

Snow depths changed dramatically from less than 15cm at the car to a healthy early season snowpack of 130-160cm on the open gladed ridgetop. We skied the upper part of the glacier on the north side of Metal Dome, with a snow depth of 260cm. I saw a wide range of snow textures. Breakable crust below 1500m, changing to light powder overtop of a supportive raincrust above. Widespread surface hoar due to the cold and clear night from the night before. And wind sculpted snow on the ridge crest.

For a day that started with low expectations, I'm pretty happy with how the skiing worked out. We broke out of the clouds, saw all the familiar Coastal peaks poking out, and skied some nice alpine powder.

More photos here:

Foggy Rob
Above the valley clouds
Harrison and Alex on the scenic tour
Alex skiing off Metal Dome on the Squamish-Cheakamus divide
Alex and Harrison
Rob skiing off Metal Dome
Straight line into the shadow